I started telling Ryan and I’s love story two weeks ago. The story began at the beginning of my journey to finding love with Ryan. It is not your typical love story – as it starts in heartbreak years before I even met Ryan. This is where Ryan enters the picture and taught my heart how to heal.
It was the beginning of summer in 2011 and I was ready to give love (or maybe just dating) a second chance. I knew my heart was ready to give love again. After hearing some stories from other girlfriends I decide to give online dating a shot. I register for OkCupid – because it was free and a couple of my friends had success finding no serial killer dates there. After the painstaking task of writing an online profile, I find myself rolling my eyes at the minimal selection in my small town. Within a few minutes, I started to receive messages from a few guys. But, overall the prospects were rather dismal.
Ryan messaged me, and he appeared to have some promise – but was slow in asking for a date. That same week, I went on my very first OkCupid date. What a disappointment! The guy could barely hold a conversation beyond the weather report and just stared a lot, waiting for me to start conversations. But, instead of giving up, I decided that I would just keep trying, if nothing else I’d have good stories to tell my friends.
So after another week or so of texting one another, Ryan and I go on a date. We meet at a restaurant and have a polite dinner, getting to know one another. He was extremely shy but had a sweet smile and I could tell he was a good person. I wanted him to loosen up a bit and try to see if he’d break out of his shell – so we decide to go to a bar for a drink. After awhile I can tell he’s more relaxed and he’s sharing more of himself. It was pouring outside and we decide it would be best to simply prolong the date rather than get soaked in the rain storm. We share some good laughs and I start to feel a connection. And then he mentions that he was really hoping to go to Boston for law school and my heart stops. Boston, which is 6 hours away. I really did not want investing time into someone who would be leaving the region at the end of the summer.
It was late at this point and we needed to head out of the bar. We run through the rain to my car and I drive him to his, which was parked further away. I gave him a quick kiss and thought, “I’ll see what happens”, but that whole idea of Boston made my heart sink. You see, I thought I deserved a love that was easy, that was effortless on my part. I was blind to the fact that I would have to sacrifice part of myself to receive love as well. That it would take work. But, at this time, I wanted a relationship to simply fall in my lap, to make up for all my previous heart break.
In the next few days and weeks Ryan would text me, but it was usually nothing more than “Hey” or “What are you up to tonight?”. It didn’t feel like he was putting any heart into it and didn’t put forth any effort to make plans anytime soon. In the meantime, I went on another date. When Ryan’s texts became fewer and further in between, I decided to date someone else. I told Ryan that I didn’t think we should text anymore, because I was dating someone else now. Sorry.
That someone else was a huge disaster. I was wrong when I said that I was ready to give love. Because in order to give love, you have to be willing and ready to receive love as well. My heart was not healed yet. It was not strong enough to give and receive love because I still did not fully love myself yet. True, I was almost there. But I expected an easy route – one where I would not open myself up to be wounded again.
For 5 months I dated someone who I never opened my heart to and he never did the same in return. It was a major waste of time and full of frustrations. But through those vexations and disappointments, I learned more about who I was and my needs and wants. I officially called it quits on New Years Eve of 2012 – I was ready to start the year fresh, with a new confidence. I was done with online dating and wasn’t going to worry about finding a relationship.
You know that saying, “love always happens when you least expect it”, well here is proof.
On January 27, I get an email from LinkedIn saying that Ryan has added me as a connection. Frankly, I’m shocked because he had even deleted me as a Facebook friend the previous summer. I decide to take this as a little hint and message Ryan via LinkedIn. We exchange phone numbers again and start to text on the regular. He had not gone to Boston and was still in the area. Texting was easy. Yet, I still had zero expectations.
A month later on February 25, we decide to go on a second first date. Normally I would fret for hours over an outfit and wait anxiously for his arrival. But, I kept my expectations low and just looked at the night as a casual dinner with a friend. Imagine my surprise when we have a great dinner – with conversation, smiles, and laughs. I find out that like me, Ryan loves karaoke. So, after dinner we head over to a bar that was having karaoke. I gave up my “don’t drink too much” dating rule and let myself go. I wasn’t worried about impressing him or what I looked like. I was simply being myself. We sang Tom’s Petty’s “American Girl” together and then he truly shook my earth by singing a song solo (Braid Paisley’s “On-Line”). Gone, was the shy boy who only a few months ago seemed terrified of me. We danced and sang at the tops of our lungs and I had one of the best nights I had for a long time.
By the end of the night, I knew that this was something special. And, without me even realizing it, my heart began to open up again. That night, I gave my heart a second chance to live, to love.
Over the next month we saw each other constantly. We shared our disappointments, our failures, our hopes – our hearts began to recognize one another. I was calm around him. All my anxiety disappeared and I felt like the girl I had lost so many years ago. The cold shield that I had built up around me over the past 3 years began to come down. Not even a month after that second first date, I knew that I loved him. I knew deep down that this was love. And that I was given a second chance and that I was not going to give up on myself or on Ryan. That this was my future.
Things weren’t always easy. Like anything that is worth something, it took work. We both had undergone major heartbreak, and sometimes our minds would slip, forgetting that we now rested on safe ground. His schedule kept us apart – but the fullness he brought to my life when we were together made it all worth it.
The next nine months flew by. I never knew I could find so much about someone else and learn so much about myself in such a short time. We traveled up and down the east coast on weekend getaways and family vacations. We tried new experiences and grew together. In December of 2012 we moved in to our first home together. The future was looking bright.
Stay Tuned for Part 4: Surprise Engagement!